The LA Times has reported that Verizon has announced that it will no longer impose data restrictions on first responders on the West Coast and in Hawaii. The news comes in the wake of a massive backlash generated by the announcement that Verizon had been throttling the data of firefighters from the Santa Clara County Fire Department.
In addition to this announcement, the mobile carrier has also said that it will be rolling out a new plan for first responders which aims to address these issues. The plan cost $38 a month and will offer first responders unlimited data and priority access on congested networks. A company representative also said that the company will disable throttling for all future responders during emergencies.
Verizon’s vice-president of business and government sales, Dave Hickey, made the announcement on Friday, August 24, while attending a meeting with California lawmakers. During the meeting, lawmakers expressed surprise that Verizon would throttle the speed of first responders, but were relieved to hear that the company was changing its policies.
Verizon said that the Santa Clara County Fire Department’s plan featured unlimited data, but that they were subject to slowdowns due to reaching their monthly cap. Officials who were trying to coordinate relief efforts said that Verizon’s throttling caused their operations to nearly grind to a halt. One person said that the speeds were akin to using a dial-up modem from 1995.
Verizon’s senior VP of the public sector, Mike Maiorana, has issued an apology for the issue and has called it a customer service error.
“In supporting first responders in the Mendocino fire, we didn’t live up to our own promise of service and performance excellence when our process failed some first responders on the line, battling a massive California wildfire,” said Maiorana. “For that, we are truly sorry. And we’re making every effort to ensure that it never happens again.”
Despite this apology, Verizon has rebuffed claims that this is a net neutrality issue and maintains it was a customer service error. However, representatives from the Santa Clara Fire Department have disagreed with this statement. Anthony Bowden, chief of the Santa Clara Fire Department, has gone so far as to join in a lawsuit filed by 21 states seeking to overturn the FCC’s decision regarding net neutrality.